CONTRIBUTION BY Bryan Christiansen – founder and CEO at Limble CMMS
We all know how delays in any part of the supply chain can cause significant problems and incur additional delays among the rest of the supply chain.
One thing that is often overlooked but plays a major role in keeping the supply chain from crumbling down is maintenance management. In one way or another, you can connect maintenance activities with every stop in your supply chain.
Be it transportation, production, or storage, a failure of one maintenance team can be felt throughout the supply chain. In that light, let’s explore this idea into more detail.
Be it moving raw materials to a warehouse or moving finished product to the consumer, transportation is an essential part of every supply chain.
For this part of the chain to work without any hiccups there are a lot of maintenance work that must be done behind the scene.
First, if you want to deliver materials/goods to a designated place and on time, your mode of transportation has to be able to endure the route without a critical failure. This is the part where you hope that ship, train, aircraft, and fleet maintenance managers have done their part of the job to ensure a successfully delivery.
Secondly, it is not rare that certain materials/products have to be transported in special conditions. Refrigeration is the most obvious example. According to an article from Food Processing on the Net:
Freezing food extends shelf life and prevents deterioration of flavor, texture, color and vitamin content. Freezing rapidly after harvest retains vitamin C levels in vegetables and provides consumers with high quality safe products. Refrigeration is key to improvements in the supply chain to meet consumer demand for a wide selection of fresh, nutrient rich produce with a longer life.
It is not hard to see how things like refrigerators also have to be regularly maintained as their failure can ruin the order and cause significant delays in your supply chain.
If there is a stage in the supply chain where maintenance gets the recognition it deserves, it is on the production floors of most operating plants.
There are two major philosophies that are used in maintenance management. A reactive approach where you wait for something to break until you fix it or replace it, and a multitude of proactive approaches that focus on predicting failures and doing preventive maintenance work.
As you can imagine, a proactive approach should be a go-to option for any plant that want to minimize the chance of becoming the cause of the delay because of unscheduled asset downtime.
Having that in mind, maintenance managers are slowly but steadily turning to proactive maintenance. More ambitious organizations might try to implement total productive maintenanceto minimize unexpected downtimes, while an average facility will most often satisfy with implementing preventive maintenance strategy.
Warehousing and Storage
At some point in the supply chain, be it materials or finished products, something will most likely have to spend a night or two safely stored in a warehouse.
However, for everything to be stored safely, there are a few conditions that must be met:
(1) machinery like forklifts have to be in a decent operating condition;
(2) warehouse itself has to be maintained properly (while it might seem trivial, things like broken lightbulbs, slippery floor, unstable shelfs…can all lead to the damage of stored goods;
(3) again, refrigerators and similar purpose items need to operate properly
While you might not think about it often, every asset and every item that was ever a part of your supply chain has, at some point, been under the care of some maintenance technician.
Even when your product reaches the store, the role of maintenance doesn’t disappear. The responsibility just transfers to the facility manager of that store. To actually put the products in the customer’s hands, the store needs to operate in normal conditions.
If the store is closed because you have a leaking pipe or a broken roof, the chain won’t be able to be closed. While that might happen rarely, it is often something that could have been prevented and avoided. Additionally, if the store isn’t maintained properly, there are a plethora of other problem that can ensue.
All of this becomes even more important if the product has to be kept under certain conditions (temperature/light/humidity…). Luckily, maintaining a store is far less demanding than maintaining a production line so, even if you don’t experience these problems first-hand, keep in mind that the problems don’t prevent themselves and that someone works behind the scene to keep everything running smoothly.
The Importance of Maintenance
As you can see, maintenance is connected to every single step of the supply chain. While different industries will have varying maintenance needs, it is interesting to see how crucial good maintenance is in keeping a healthy supply chain.